Schools in Finland: A Bite-Size Overview

By John Barlow

Ahead of our project team’s visit to observe lessons in schools in Helsinki, Finland; we looked at some of the key features of the highly regarded Finnish school system:

  • Finland’s comprehensive school system covers the 7 to 16 age range, with the basic education programme delivered in year classes from 1 to 9.
  • Compulsory schooling starts in the year when children turn seven and ends when the basic education programme has been completed, or when 10 years have passed from the start of compulsory schooling.
  • Schools are mainly run by local authorities, with less than 2 per cent of children attending private schools.
  • There are no single sex schools.
  • Basic education is governed by legislation, national core curricula and decentralised local curricula.
  • The core curriculum is drawn up by the National Board of Education, the national agency for the development of education. This forms the basis for local curricula which are designed by the education providers, in most cases the local authority.
  • Schools have certain freedoms in determining their own teaching arrangements. Teachers can use the learning materials and the teaching methods they prefer. There are no nationally chosen textbooks, nor is there any vetting of textbooks. There are no inspections of schools.
  • As a rule, schools do not select pupils. Every pupil can enrol in their local school. They are also able to choose a different school in their locality.
  • .The basic education is free for all pupils, as well as school meals, learning materials, health and dental care, and travel to and from school.
  • All teachers are required to posses a Master’s degree.
  • For the first six years pupils are taught by a class teacher who teaches all or most subjects. During the last three years, most subjects (including maths) are taught by specialised subject teachers.

All information adapted from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (http://www.minedu.fi/pisa/piirteita.html?lang=en)

The location of the basic education programme in the wider Finnish education system

The location of the basic education programme in the wider Finnish education system